Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#1
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2204623 .
Accessed: 16/03/2014 04:02

A look at the diplomacy surrounding Fort Sumpter

THE DECISION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN TO PROVISION FORT SUMTER and the decision of the Confederate government to attack it have been the focus of one of the more persistent controversies of Civil War history. Claims that the South fired the first shot and thus unnecessarily began a bloody conflict have been countered by accusations that the attempt to supply the fort was a hostile act, the spark that really touched off the explosion. The part Lincoln himself played in the Sumter affair has, to say the least, attracted much attention. The most devastating and provocative charge thus far made, one which the late Professor Charles W. Ramsdell was the first to put forward in a complete and scholarly manner, is that Lincoln deliberately provoked the Confederates into firing the first shot as the only possible way out of an otherwise insoluble political dilemma.' This allegation is especially controversial because it is felt by many to challenge, if not overthrow, the most widely accepted picture of Lincoln's character.​

I think the more likely explanation is that Lincoln gave the choice of war or peace to Davis giving Davis the initiative and Davis chose war. Lincoln was in a bind, there was unanimity in the North on how to proceed and the legal path was uncertain. War simplifies the situation for Lincoln and for Davis.

Preoccupation with the Lincoln side of the Sumter question has meant comparative neglect of the Confederate side. Writers have not taken the trouble to give a connected narrative of the Sumter negotiations as they were seen by the Montgomery government and its officials. Perhaps the fullest account is contained in Crawford's Genesis of the Civil War, but it is often unclear and sometimes inaccurate.2 Nicolay and Hay, in their massive biography of Lincoln, treat the subject at some length, but with venomous partisanship. And at best such works discuss it only as part of some larger story. Therefore a narrative confined to the diplomacy of Sumter as seen by the Confederate government should help to throw into sharper relief the reasons which led President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet to make that momentous choice which sent the first shell arching across Charleston Harbor.​

Footnotes
'Charles W. Radsdell, Lincoln and Fort Sumter,"

Journal of Southern History,

III (August 1937), 259-88.
2Samuel Wylie Crawford,

The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter,
1860-1861 (New York, 1887).
3John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History (10 vols., New
York, 1890), III-IV.
 
Last edited:

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#3
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2204623 .
Emphasis mine.
The story of the Confederacy's Sumter diplomacy begins in mid-February 1861 when the new government at Montgomery assumed responsibility, previously borne by South Carolina, for the military situation at Charleston. Events prior to that time had done a great deal to alarm the people of the state and the South generally. Early in December, almost two weeks before South Carolina seceded, the congressmen of the state had talked with President James Buchanan and believed they had secured a pledge from him that the military status quo at Charleston would not be altered so long as Major Robert Anderson's garrison of Federal troops at Fort Moultrie was not disturbed. After secession, the state sent envoys to Washington to settle all outstanding questions between the United States and the new republic, but scarcely had they arrived when they heard that Anderson had moved his men from the weak Fort Moultrie on the mainland to the much stronger Fort Sumter in the harbor. This was interpreted as a warlike move anticipatory of hostilities and aroused great excitement in Charleston and elsewhere. Soon afterward, early in January, Buchanan attempted to send reinforcements to Anderson on the Star of the West, but it was fired on and driven off on January 9 without accomplishing its purpose. The result was naturally further bad feeling. These occurrences, coupled with the Carolinian temperament of that day-fiery, excitable, already indignant at the continued presence of foreign troops in the harbor-created a dangerous atmosphere. The people and their leaders were impatient; they wanted action. "If the meeting of the Convention at Montgomery," Governor Francis W. Pickens wrote Jefferson Davis on January 23, "can give us our rights and our possessions without blood, I shall rejoice, but if not, blood must follow."4 Statements of this sort created a fear in Montgomery that hostilities might be commenced unnecessarily, and at a time when the new Confederacy was yet too weak to defend itself. To prevent this, the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States passed a resolution on February 12 assuming full responsibility for the Sumter question.5 The threat of unilateral action by South Carolina never materialized, and Davis did, in fact, secure the co-operation of the state throughout the crisis. The unfortunate climax was not to be precipitated by any rash act of Charleston fire-eaters but rather by the deliberate and skillfully conceived policies of Abraham Lincoln.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#4
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association P443-444
Recent scholarship has pointed out that Lincoln formed basic policy toward Sumter and related questions during the winter of 1860-1861, and that, keeping his own counsel, he managed to adhere to that policy in the face of many difficulties.6 Similarly, the basic strategy the Confederacy should follow had taken shape in Jefferson Davis' mind well before the Montgomery government was organized. On January 20 he wrote Governor Pickens that it would be unwise to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter.​
The little garrison in its present position presses on nothing but a point of pride, and to you I need not say that war is made up of real elements. I hope we shall soon have a Southern Confederacy, that shall be ready to do all which interest or even pride demands .... We have much of preparation to make, both in military and civil organization, and the time which serves for our preparation, by its moral effect tends also towards a peaceful solution .... [If] things continue as they are for a month, we shall then be in a condition to speak with a voice which all must hear and heed.7​
So the plan was, and would continue to be: Refrain from bringing on a crisis, even though the United States continued to maintain garrisons at Fort Sumter and elsewhere.8 Instead, be patient, consolidate and strengthen the new nation. Then when the Confederacy demanded its rights it would have a better chance of receiving them peaceably or, if not, then a better chance of winning them by force of arms. To Davis, the latter eventuality seemed more probable; he was never optimistic about the possibility of peaceful separation.9
A single letter seems to be a bit sparse for defining Davis' strategy. Also in assuming war, then Davis would be predisposed to military action. Lincolns motives may also be sparsely documented.

Footnotes:
journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865
(7 vols., Washington, 1904-1905), I, 46-47.
6For a persuasive interpretation of Lincoln's actions, see Kenneth M. Stampp,
And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861 (Baton
Rouge, 1950), 178-286.
7Rowland (ed.), Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist,

V, 40.
8The other forts still held by the United States were Pickens at Pensacola,
Taylor at Key West, and Jefferson at Dry Tortugas.
 
Last edited:

BlueandGrayl

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2018
Messages
1,551
Location
Corona, California
#5
Well, the Civil War in 1861 could have started a few months earlier when in January the USS Star of the West was sailing towards Charleston, South Carolina to supply the U.S. military garrison led by Robert Anderson it received heavy fire by the Confederate troops there but it didn't destroy it and thus sailed back out of South Carolina.

I'd imagined that if the Confederate troops were more successful in damaging the USS Star of the West and sank it would have sped up the Civil War and since this is President James Buchanan still in power before Abraham Lincoln is inagurated in March (which was when a president was sworn in until 1923) I think as much as he would be against using force to coerce a state in the Union since a U.S. ship was destroyed in this scenario he would call for troops and probably more or less the same secession from Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee would occur like they did in OTL.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#6
Well, the Civil War in 1861 could have started a few months earlier when in January the USS Star of the West was sailing towards Charleston, South Carolina to supply the U.S. military garrison led by Robert Anderson it received heavy fire by the Confederate troops there but it didn't destroy it and thus sailed back out of South Carolina.

I'd imagined that if the Confederate troops were more successful in damaging the USS Star of the West and sank it would have sped up the Civil War and since this is President James Buchanan still in power before Abraham Lincoln is inagurated in March (which was when a president was sworn in until 1923) I think as much as he would be against using force to coerce a state in the Union since a U.S. ship was destroyed in this scenario he would call for troops and probably more or less the same secession from Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee would occur like they did in OTL.
Could be, but please let's focus on the diplomacy issues the author of the article lays out.
 

Jimklag

Lt. Colonel
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 3, 2017
Messages
9,911
Location
Chicagoland
#7
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association P443-444
Recent scholarship has pointed out that Lincoln formed basic policy toward Sumter and related questions during the winter of 1860-1861, and that, keeping his own counsel, he managed to adhere to that policy in the face of many difficulties.6 Similarly, the basic strategy the Confederacy should follow had taken shape in Jefferson Davis' mind well before the Montgomery government was organized. On January 20 he wrote Governor Pickens that it would be unwise to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter.​
The little garrison in its present position presses on nothing but a point of pride, and to you I need not say that war is made up of real elements. I hope we shall soon have a Southern Confederacy, that shall be ready to do all which interest or even pride demands .... We have much of preparation to make, both in military and civil organization, and the time which serves for our preparation, by its moral effect tends also towards a peaceful solution .... [If] things continue as they are for a month, we shall then be in a condition to speak with a voice which all must hear and heed.7​
So the plan was, and would continue to be: Refrain from bringing on a crisis, even though the United States continued to maintain garrisons at Fort Sumter and elsewhere.8 Instead, be patient, consolidate and strengthen the new nation. Then when the Confederacy demanded its rights it would have a better chance of receiving them peaceably or, if not, then a better chance of winning by force of arms. To Davis, the latter eventuality seemed more probable; he was never optimistic about the possibility of peaceful separation.9
A single letter seems to be a bit sparse for defining Davis' strategy. Also in assuming war, then Davis would be predisposed to military action.
The US Army was very small and scattered out west protecting settlers from Indians. Davis had months to bolster southern forces (just as it proved out in real life) before the Federal government could assemble an army and venture south to put down the rebellion. His impatience to start the ball rolling actually contributed to the south losing the war. He could have used diplomacy as a stalling tactic to put the south in a stronger position before hostilities commenced.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#8
The US Army was very small and scattered out west protecting settlers from Indians. Davis had months to bolster southern forces (just as it proved out in real life) before the Federal government could assemble an army and venture south to put down the rebellion. His impatience to start the ball rolling actually contributed to the south losing the war. He could have used diplomacy as a stalling tactic to put the south in a stronger position before hostilities commenced.
Please let's stay on topic and not turn this into another Sumter argument thread.
Thanks.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#10
Just opining that Davis could have used diplomacy more but instead pulled the trigger. It was not meant to send the thread off the rails.
The article will disclose he did more diplomacy than we have discussed before. I suspect I will found wrong on some of my posts. One reason we are exploring this in the new year. New things to learn.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#11
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association P444-445

On February 19 Davis was inaugurated as President of the Provisional Government, and during the next few days, he was occupied in forming his cabinet.​
Meanwhile, on February 15 Congress passed a resolution advising Davis to appoint a three-man commission to be sent to Washington "for the purpose of negotiating friendly relations between [the United States] and the Confederate States of America; and for the settlement of all questions of disagreements between the two Governments, upon principles of right, justice, equity, and good faith." Immediately thereafter another resolution was adopted saying​

It is the sense of this Congress that immediate steps should be taken to obtain possession of Forts Sumter and Picken by the authority of this Government, either by negotiation, or force, as early as practicable, and the President is hereby authorized to make all necessary military preparations for carrying this resolution into effect.'5​
Davis ignores for the moment this resolution which has no practical effect. And concentrates on the commission. The Commission has wide-ranging practical powers. However, Congress has not appropriated funding for and settlements. Treaties also have to be approved by the Senate.

Davis complied with the first resolution and selected for this vital duty Martin J. Crawford, Andre B. Roman, and John Forsyth. They were given sweeping powers to discuss and sign treaties or conventions dealing with all matters of common interest.'6 Crawford, head of the delegation, was a Georgian who had served creditably in Congress for a number of years. In 1861 he was in the prime of life (forty-one), a man of energy and determination, but, in the opinion of one astute observer, perhaps not of the best judgment.'7​

I wonder how Crawford will figure into the failure of the mission.

Footnotes
l4Rembert W. Patrick, Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet (Baton Rouge, 1944),
113-14.
'5Journal of the Confederate Congress, I, 55.
D. Richardson (ed.), A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of
the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865 (2 vols.,
Nashville, 1905), I, 56.
17'Russell,
Diary, 63; R. P. Brooks, "Martin Jenkins Crawford," Dictionary of
American Biography, IV, 523; Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Con-
federate Government (2 vols., Richmond, n. d.), I, 202.
18Russell,
Diary, 63, 66, 190-91.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7,921
Location
Denver, CO
#12
The problem facing the Confederates was that if Lincoln or Seward met unofficially or officially with the Confederates, the US still could treat the Confederates as an alleged foreign entity and make any settlement contingent on Congressional approval. For the US, this would be a perfect means to stall and organize.
The private, or unofficial meeting, a method employed by the British, offers the best chance to the US to claim conciliation without recognition.
Since the Confederacy was very new, and the Government had taken over without a contested election victory, the Confederates had legitimacy problems and control problems.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7,921
Location
Denver, CO
#13
In addition, the negotiation is much more like a three way negotiation with the British involved. The British want a conclusive end to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Secession removes the only excuse for non-cooperation that the US had, so the British want secession, an inspection treaty, and some type of easily monitored blockade.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#14
The problem facing the Confederates was that if Lincoln or Seward met unofficially or officially with the Confederates, the US still could treat the Confederates as an alleged foreign entity and make any settlement contingent on Congressional approval. For the US, this would be a perfect means to stall and organize.
The private, or unofficial meeting, a method employed by the British, offers the best chance to the US to claim conciliation without recognition.
Since the Confederacy was very new, and the Government had taken over without a contested election victory, the Confederates had legitimacy problems and control problems.
In addition, the negotiation is much more like a three way negotiation with the British involved. The British want a conclusive end to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Secession removes the only excuse for non-cooperation that the US had, so the British want secession, an inspection treaty, and some type of easily monitored blockade.
Thanks for your thoughts, but let's try to concentrate on the Articles words. Especially not get ahead of it. Thanks.
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#15
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association P447

The commissioners were instructed
  • See the President of the United States
  • Explain the peaceful intentions of the Confederacy.
  • Secure, if possible, recognition and a treaty of amity.
  • If he refused to accept their credentials and meet them officially, they should offer to discuss these matters with him unofficially.
  • They were to assure him that hostilities would result only if the North tried to exercise the erstwhile powers of the Federal government within the frontiers of the Confederate States.
  • If the President should state that he must delay any decisions until he could consult the Senate, or until Congress convened and took action to meet the crisis, the commissioners were empowered to acquiesce in such delay-provided they received assurances that the peaceful status quo would not be disturbed and that the United States would not try to enforce any presumed authority within the Confederacy.
It was least important to maintain the Status Quo.
It was very important to be suspicious.
These instructions were a recipe for misunderstanding as we shall see.
The commissioners were instructed by their government to see the President of the United States, explain the peaceful intentions of the Confederacy, and secure, if possible, recognition and a treaty of amity. If he refused to accept their credentials and meet them officially, they should offer to discuss these matters with him unofficially. They were to assure him that hostilities would result only if the North tried to exercise the erstwhile powers of the Federal government within the frontiers of the Confederate States. If the President should state that he must delay any decisions until he could consult the Senate, or until Congress convened and took action to meet the crisis, the commissioners were empowered to acquiesce in such delay-provided they received assurances that the peaceful status quo would not be disturbed and that the United States would not try to enforce any presumed authority within the Confederacy. Toombs impressed upon his agents that it was of the "last importance" to preserve the status quo. Furthermore, they were warned to be on the lookout for any attempt by the United States to use delay "to cover sinister designs and complete a plan of military or naval attack, while we, in fancied security, wait for action" in the diplomatic sphere. Therefore they should do their best to get reliable information of the intentions of the United States and pass that information on to Montgomery regularly and frequently.21​
Footnote​
21 Toombs to Crawford, Forsyth, and Roman, February 27, 1861, in John T. Pickett Papers (Manuscript Division, Library of Congress).
 
Last edited:

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#16
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association P447

Just as the CSA emerges from the chaos of secession and becoming a nation it runs into the chaos of a change of administration in Washington.

Crawford was the first commissioner to reach Washington, arriving there late on the morning of March 3. The political situation seemed little short of chaotic. Buchanan, with only one day of official life remaining, refused to receive Crawford, who described the President as being "as incapable now of purpose as a child." As for Lincoln, he was being driven to distraction by swarms of frantic officeseekers who would inevitably make the opening of negotiations more difficult.22​
Chaos, pessimism, rumors, different cultures, vague phraseology, and suspicion. Not a great beginning for this diplomatic mission.
The Confederates firmly believed they had legally succeeded and were an independent nation, they had no doubt of this and Federal meddling would be met with force.

On the next day Lincoln was inaugurated, and in his address he stated his intention to "hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion-no using of force against, or among the people anywhere."23 This was the kind of phraseology which could mean all things to all men-a Lincoln specialty- depending on their points of view. To the Confederates and their sympathizers in Washington, it was not reassuring. Their reaction was described by Lucius Quinton Washington, who was on intimate terms with the commissioners and who later became chief clerk in the Confederate State Department.24 Taking the pessimistic and suspicious attitude which was to be characteristic of him throughout the Sumter crisis, he wrote to Secretary of War Walker on March 5:​
I was present last evening at a consultation of Southern gentlemen, at which Messrs. Crawford, Garnett, Pryor, De Jarnette, of Virginia, and Wigfall, of Texas, were present. We all put the same construction on the inaugural, which we carefully went over together. We agreed that it was Lincoln's purpose at once to attempt the collection of the revenue, to re-enforce and hold Fort Sumter and Pickens, and to retake the other places. He is a man of will and firmness. His Cabinet will yield to him with alacrity, I think. Seward has, of course, agreed to the inaugural, and the pretenses of his conservatism are idle. We believe that these plans will be put into execution immediately. I learn five or six United States ships are in New York Harbor, all ready to start.25​


Footnotes
22Crawford to Toombs, March 3, 1861, ibid.
23A-Abraham Lincoln, Collected Works, Roy P. Basler, ed. (8 vols. and index,
New Brunswick, N. J., 1953), IV, 266. In the original draft of the inaugural,
Lincoln used franker words: "All the power at my disposal will be used to reclaim the public property and places which have fallen .... " The substitution was the suggestion of Orville Hickman Browning; 'Seward also advised him to tone down
the language. Ibid., IV, 254n, 261-62n.
24For additional information on Washington, see Robert Douthat Meade,
Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman (New York, 1943), 246, and Mary
Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, Ben Ames Williams, ed. (Boston, 1949),
passim.
25The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the
Union and Confederate Armies (127 vols. and index, Washington, 1880-1901),
Series I, Vol. I, 263. On the previous day Washington -and Louis T. Wigfall had wiredGovernor Pickens that the inaugural meant war and that Sumter would soon be reinforced. Washington's March 5 letter was relayed to the Charlestown authorities
on March 9. Ibid., 272. See, also, Washington's telegram to Governor
Pickens, March 4, 1861, in Francis W. Pickens Papers ('Manuscript Division,
Library of Congress), in which he wrote, "The inaugural is regarded by all as equivalent
to a declaration of war.
 
Joined
Jun 17, 2017
Messages
732
#17
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association P447

The commissioners were instructed
  • See the President of the United States
  • Explain the peaceful intentions of the Confederacy.
  • Secure, if possible, recognition and a treaty of amity.
  • If he refused to accept their credentials and meet them officially, they should offer to discuss these matters with him unofficially.
  • They were to assure him that hostilities would result only if the North tried to exercise the erstwhile powers of the Federal government within the frontiers of the Confederate States.
  • If the President should state that he must delay any decisions until he could consult the Senate, or until Congress convened and took action to meet the crisis, the commissioners were empowered to acquiesce in such delay-provided they received assurances that the peaceful status quo would not be disturbed and that the United States would not try to enforce any presumed authority within the Confederacy.
It was least important to maintain the Status Quo.
It was very important to be suspicious.
These instructions were a recipe for misunderstanding as we shall see.
The commissioners were instructed by their government to see the President of the United States, explain the peaceful intentions of the Confederacy, and secure, if possible, recognition and a treaty of amity. If he refused to accept their credentials and meet them officially, they should offer to discuss these matters with him unofficially. They were to assure him that hostilities would result only if the North tried to exercise the erstwhile powers of the Federal government within the frontiers of the Confederate States. If the President should state that he must delay any decisions until he could consult the Senate, or until Congress convened and took action to meet the crisis, the commissioners were empowered to acquiesce in such delay-provided they received assurances that the peaceful status quo would not be disturbed and that the United States would not try to enforce any presumed authority within the Confederacy. Toombs impressed upon his agents that it was of the "last importance" to preserve the status quo. Furthermore, they were warned to be on the lookout for any attempt by the United States to use delay "to cover sinister designs and complete a plan of military or naval attack, while we, in fancied security, wait for action" in the diplomatic sphere. Therefore they should do their best to get reliable information of the intentions of the United States and pass that information on to Montgomery regularly and frequently.21​
Footnote​
21 Toombs to Crawford, Forsyth, and Roman, February 27, 1861, in John T. Pickett Papers (Manuscript Division, Library of Congress).
The instructions to the commissioners seem reasonable to me, seems they mostly wanted to talk and keep the status quo. Am I missing something?
 

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#18
Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy
Author(s): Ludwell H. Johnson
Source: The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477
Published by: Southern Historical Association P447

Adding to the chaos is Seward, who fancied himself at the real president. His interference with the CSA diplomatic mission will lead to distrust and is a major factor in Davis' decision to start a war instead of waiting.

Such was true in 1860, when Seward was passed over in favor of Lincoln. Nevertheless, he continued to be, with the President himself, one of the leading figures in his party. He was offered and accepted the post of secretary of state, and it was expected by many that he would be president in fact if not in name, a hope which Seward himself seems to have shared for several weeks.26 Occupying the position he did in the Republican party and in Lincoln's cabinet, Seward tried to take charge of relations with the Confederacy, especially in connection with the crisis developing on the Sumter question.​
Because the South had threatened to secede for so long, it was discounted the time it happened.

It had long been a standard practice with the Republicans, Seward included, to belittle Southern threats to secede; but the secession of South Carolina in December, followed by the rest of the lower South, made these presumably idle threats a reality.27 How was this danger to the party and the Union to be met? Seward believed the answer lay in patience and in avoiding anything which might provoke hostilities. Follow this policy, and the secessionist fever would steadily recede like mercury in a thermometer. Excitement would die out in the upper South, which would thereafter firmly adhere to the Union. A conservative reaction would then occur in the lower South, thereby undoing the work of the secessionists and reconstructing the Union on its original basis. To carry out this policy Seward would have to control the actions of both sides. It was, to say the least, a difficult undertaking, and ultimately the entire situation was to slip from Seward's grasp when Lincoln decided to supply Fort Sumter. But Seward's efforts, even though unsuccessful, are significant because they involved him in protracted negotiations which not only did not prevent war but which convinced the Confederates that the assurances and pledges of the Lincoln administration could not be trusted.
Footnotes
26Frederic

Bancroft, The Life of William H. Seward (2 vols., New York, 1900),

II, 7.
27Ibid., 1-2.
2sibid., 25-26.
 
Last edited:

jgoodguy

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
35,552
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
#19
The instructions to the commissioners seem reasonable to me, seems they mostly wanted to talk and keep the status quo. Am I missing something?
Toombs impressed upon his agents that it was of the "last importance" to preserve the status quo.
They were to assure him that hostilities would result only if the North tried to exercise the erstwhile powers of the Federal government within the frontiers of the Confederate States.
Furthermore, they were warned to be on the lookout for any attempt by the United States to use delay "to cover sinister designs and complete a plan of military or naval attack, while we, in fancied security, wait for action" in the diplomatic sphere.
Because the CSA believed it was an independent nation, there was no question of secession. It seems to me that the options were recognization or war.
 



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top